Captain of a second-string Indian squad to Zimbabwe, Suresh Raina said on Tuesday that the absence of senior players has given the youngsters an opportunity to prove their mettle in the tri-series and two bilateral Twenty20 Internationals against the hosts.
"We have to thank the seniors who have taken a rest and it has given a great opportunity for the youngsters to do well. We have a good bench and all of them have done well in domestic cricket," said the 23-year-old, who is yet to play in a Test match, ahead of the team's departure in Mumbai.
The Indian team will be without eight senior players, including regular captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and veteran batsman Sachin Tendulkar, for the May 28-June 9 tri-series, also involving Sri Lanka, and the two T20 Internationals against Zimbabwe on June 12 and 13.
Raina said the young team under him was a balanced one and expressed confidence that they would do well in the tri-series and the Twenty20 Internationals.
"It's going to be an exciting series. We have a well-balanced team. We have lot of good batsmen who have done well in first class cricket and in IPL. We have a good medium pace attack and good set of all-rounders. We will win the series if we work hard," he said.
Raina said leading the country was an honour and dream come true for him but it has also imposed extra responsibility on his shoulders.
"I have dreamt about leading India. By the grace of God I have got the opportunity. It's a great challenge and I'm looking forward to it. But it has also thrust great responsibility on me," said the Uttar Pradesh batsman who has been named captain in the absence of Dhoni.
Raina said he was confident of doing well as captain as he had played under Dhoni, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid.
"I have played under Dada (Ganguly), Rahulbhai and Dhoni. Dhoni has told me to keep it simple. I have also talked to coach (Gary Kirsten)," Raina said.
He said the advice which Tendulkar keeps giving was to be humble all the time.
"He (Tendulkar) has repeatedly said that if you are humble you would achieve a lot," the left handed batsman said.
Raina brushed aside concerns that the Indian batsmen were not comfortable against the short stuff.
"There's a lot of talk we are not good against short-pitched bowling. We have done well in Tests and 50-over games to become the number one team in Tests and number two in ODIs. Some days you get your shots right and on others you get it wrong," he pointed out.
Saying 50-over game was different from the Twenty20 matches, that the players have been involved in for the last three months, Raina said the team would do well in the longer format of one-day cricket.
He said the team's superior fitness on the field would help it a lot. "The team is young and fit. A score of 270 will feel like 290 against us," he declared.
Apart from Tendulkar and Dhoni, senior players Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh and Ashish Nehra will also not be a part of the tour.
India will begin their campaign in the tri-series on May 28 against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo. After that, they will face Sri Lanka on May 30 (Bulawayo), Zimbabwe on June 3 and Sri Lanka on June 5 (both in Harare). The final of the tri-series will be held on June 9 in Harare.
The team will also play two Twenty20 Internationals against Zimbabwe in Harare on June 12 and 13.
Manager GVK Ranga Raju said there have been no special instructions from the BCCI about imposing late night curfew on players.
"We don't have any special instructions from the Board. Whatever instructions were there earlier will continue," the team manager said without elaborating.
After the Twenty20 World Cup, in which India performed dismally, six players were pulled up by the Cricket Board and issued show cause notice for going out of the team hotel late at night.
The players were asked to explain their conduct following an incident in a pub in St Lucia in the West Indies, where the players got into an verbal argument with fans who reportedly abused them for their poor display.